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The Raw Shark Texts

Steven Hall‘s The Raw Shark Texts (Canongate) reviewed by Paul Ewen

myspacecoversmed2-1.jpgAt one minute past midnight on Saturday July 21 2007, children (and adults behaving like children) will rush into high-street bookshops in order to buy the final instalment in the Harry Potter series. Inside the shops, it’s possible they will encounter hired thespians dressed in funny hats. These thespians may well speak in ye olde worlde tones. As a result, the fans will probably smile nervously and pull their jumpers down with awkwardness, stretching the fabric over their thighs. After the affected talk of magic, and much jostling, they will presumably buy the precious book and leave the shop in the pitch black early hours of the morning. The really geeky kids might begin reading it in the car on the way home. The more spoilt kids are likely to fade quickly, their tiredness producing grizzles, and there might be some snapping.

Another big event in the literary calendar this year is the launch of Steven Hall’s debut novel, The Raw Shark Texts. After making quite a storm at the London Book Fair in 2006, it has continued to create big waves throughout the literary world. And from what I understand, its bookshop launch promises to be a truly interesting affair also. Fans who want to buy the book (and I would urge you to join them) are invited to go to any bookshop they choose, approach the ‘H’ section of the fiction aisle, remove all the books on these shelves, unscrew a ventilation grille on the wall behind the shelves, climb through this, descend down an iron staircase and walk for days through various underground passages towards a secret destination. I happen to know this secret destination, but it’s imperative that you discover it yourself via the bookshop vent route. (I should also point out that you will need to bring a cat with you.)

The Raw Shark Texts (think Rorschach Test) is a very original and very engaging book. This is my first book review, and I think I’m going to jump into the deep water with my hands around my bent, tucked-in legs and say that this is a “wonderful book”. I was reading it during a particular tube journey, and at one point I held it right out in front of 393190002_fa3563b6c2_m.jpgme and said: “FUCKING HELL”. While the press release mentions echoes of Jorg Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Paul Auster, William Gibson and Thomas Pynchon, other reports I have read have made comparisons with Jaws, The Matrix and Memento. That’s not normal, is it? Comparing a novel to a film? THEATRE OF THE MIND, SIR! Since I am obviously required to demonstrate my own opinion for the sake of this review, I am going to compare The Raw Shark Texts to a sea creature. And I choose the Basket Starfish:

“IN A SEA OF NEW BOOK TITLES, MANY OF WHICH SWIM TOGETHER IN SCHOOLS OF SAMENESS, THE RAW SHARK TEXTS STANDS OUT LIKE A BASKET STARFISH (GORGONOCEPHALUS ARCTICUS).”

That’s got to be worth a reprint.

3:AM championed Steven Hall way back (plug), and you should also read the marvelous piece he had in the British Council’s New Writing 13 anthology entitled “Stories for a Phone Book”.

m_57cfecaf854ae345b39cbf17cf8c01ab.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Paul Ewen’s first book, London Pub Reviews, is being published by Shoes With Rockets, available April 2007

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Saturday, February 17th, 2007.